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Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,810 Ratings  ·  415 Reviews
Nowhere is there another lab like Dr. Bill Bass's: On a hillside in Tennessee, human bodies decompose in the open air, aided by insects, bacteria, and birds, unhindered by coffins or mausoleums. At the "Body Farm," nature takes its course, with corpses buried in shallow graves, submerged in water, concealed beneath slabs of concrete, locked in trunks of cars. As stand-ins ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2003)
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Visiting the Body Farm in Tennessee would be my idea of a good day out. A scientific research facility which treats death as an informative transition period rather than something static and final, the Body Farm has become world famous.

As someone who has been routinely staring death in the face (or more accurately into the faces of hundreds of deceased, recent or otherwise), my desk is usually awash with texts and field manuals produced by William Bass and his colleagues. People often mistakenly
Mar 04, 2008 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
As someone who has had a lifelong fascination with death, decomposition, murder, funerary and burial practices, and all manner of morbid stuff, I was eager to read Death's Acre. I had read a little about the Body Farm previously, so I couldn't wait to get the whole story from the man who started it all, Bill Bass.

I expected the book to focus very narrowly on the Body Farm itself, but that isn't the case. The reader does get information about Bass's background and how he got into anthropology --
Rachel (BAVR)
I picked up this book because the Body Farm fascinates me. Seriously, I'm so taken with that place that I would consider willing my future cadaver there someday if my family approves. In Death's Acre, Dr. William M. Bass, his tale written by the vastly capable Jon Jefferson, takes us on the journey of his exciting career as a forensic anthropologist, professor, and founder of the Body Farm.

There are some very graphic descriptions of human decomposition in this book, which doesn't bother me, but
Jan 05, 2016 JuliaOrlando rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in true-crime, forensic and anthropological science,
This book is based on the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility, aka "The Body Farm". The 1st facility of it's kind, The Body Farm researches the decomposition process of the human body in varied controlled settings. Results in these studies have helped federal and local law enforcement solve murders and missing persons cases.

The author, who joined UofT's anthropology department in 1971 and founded the original Body Farm in 1981, injects a nice balance of humor to off-set t
Sep 08, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2non-fiction, 1paper
The writing could be tighter, but his wandering through his life is interesting. How he, an anthropologist developed into a pioneer in the field of forensics is interesting & funny, in rather horrible ways. (A corpse in the closet over the weekend - the poor janitor!) The development & reasoning behind the body farm is also interesting. See Mary Roache's book on corpses - she has a chapter on the body farm & does a wonderful job, too.
Lori Summers
I have a keen interest in forensic science and true crime. I studied forensic anthropology for a little while in grad school (and I feel compelled to add that I did this before it was The In Thing). My interest in the subject was sparked by a book by Dr. William Maples, one of the founders of the field, called Dead Men Do Tell Tales. Dr. Bass is another of the giants in the field, although Maples’ book is more artful and creative than this one, which is somewhat formless and meandering.

I felt li
Dec 20, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd heard about this fellow's work from several directions before I ever picked up the book (one of my oldest friends has agreed to donate his body to this research facility), and I was frankly enamored with the idea (of the research facility, not the donation).

I was actually mildly disappointed with the scale of his facility -- I had imagined it as a huge spread, out in the wilds of southern Appalachia, with various experiments scattered in the hollows and tucked away at the end of meandering p
Keilani Ludlow
Feb 13, 2013 Keilani Ludlow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow what a book! I am so very glad that my new-ish Goodreads friend, Matt, recommended this book. Exactly what I like.

I love watching the crime/forensic shows. CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, whatever. However, I get really grossed-out at the graphic visuals and some of the details into the creepy minds leaves me feeling ill. This book has all the good parts without the nasty.

The author started the first body farm in America and is behind (either on his own or thru graduate students he taught) a si
Jan 12, 2013 Gretchen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this book 4 out of 5 stars, but I had one minor, nit-picky complaint. The author gives us only glimpses into his personal life, his beliefs and his childhood. We know by the end of the book that his first two wives died, leaving him lonely and depressed. Then, next thing you know, he's married to someone he knew years ago. I would have liked some tales of their courtship or maybe some more information about her. He mentions at the end that he no longer believes in an afterlife ...more
patrycja polczyk
Jul 15, 2013 patrycja polczyk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very much looking forward to reading this book, as I’m fascinated with bodies and science of how they decay. I’m also an anthropologist - cultural one, but still fascinated with anything anthropological. This book is excellent and I was in love with it the moment I’ve started reading it. History of dr Bass and his creation of Body Farm is like a really great adventure for me. I give it 4 stars only because I wasn’t exactly happy with the fact, that he was repeating himself quite often, alm ...more
I really enjoyed learning about the Body Farm and how it came to be. I have read Patricia Cornwell's book The Body Farm and so learning the lengths she went to for her research for a death scene in the book was great and encouraging to hear that she really cared if her books are realistic. Also learning where the techniques that are taken for granted today came from, who thought them up, and the experiments done to create these techniques. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Ixan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Better than the Forensic Files on tv. Very detailed and interesting but a bit gruesome, unless you like reading about decomposition.

Remember the old school song, 'the worms crawled in and the worms crawled out'? That about sums it up.
Apr 10, 2016 Liralen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know of only two types of scientific research that require utterly destroying the very thing you're studying: excavating an archaeological site and investigating a death scene (74).

Bass started the first Body Farm, a research facility designed to study decomposition of human bodies and, in turn, aid investigations. For better or for worse, Death's Acre is not really about the Body Farm—rather, it's about Bass's career trajectory more generally. Over the years, he says, counting my excavations
Apr 12, 2015 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grbpp
(3.5) Interesting, though reminds me of concerns about accuracy

These forensic anthropologists (much like many coroners) become experts and then assume they can determine facts with near certainty when they can't possibly consistently. I do appreciate Bass making as much of a science out of this field as possible, so he may be among the best, but there's danger in accepting the data they return.

I appreciate Bass' frankness about his mistakes. He really owns up to them, at times pokes a bit of fun
Mar 14, 2014 Wheeler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
“Death’s Acre” is not what it claims to be: “Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales.”
It’s Bill Bass’s bloated memoir, brimming with useless information, bogging down readers and serving no purpose.
It’s also Bill Bass’s chance to stand up and accuse men and women, not convicted in a court of law, of being murderers. More on that later.
Bass writes about all sorts of things, including a few of his cases and cases of his colleagues. He writes a little about the
Jul 20, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Examining one of the Bass non-fiction books, the reader will discover that the world of forensic anthropology and crime scene analysis is nothing like that depicted on television, or in most crime novels. Bass seeks not only to delve into the real-world exploration of what he has been doing for the past 25 (at the time) years or so, but also to shed some light on techniques, variations, and the creation of the Body Farm, for which he has become known since its creation in 1980. Adding some perso ...more
Aug 04, 2010 Brandee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone in the medical field or interested in crime stories
I was sad when I read the last sentence of this book; I did not want it to end. When I started reading this book I wanted to read about dead bodies and the story behind the bodies, the cause of death and if it was a murder victim then the story of how the person was killed. The first chapter did start out talking about a body but it also started talking about the life of Bill Bass, the founder of the Body Farm, which I wasn’t interested in but I had to remind myself that this book is a memoir of ...more
Dec 28, 2007 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is a book that was ghosted, or the guy who wrote it was helped to write it by some other guy. The danger with this is that you don't know if the guy who is helping you to write your book can write. This book could have done with someone with a cringe detector reading over it first and saying to both of them - "look, no, just no".

Otherwise it is a fascinating book. I loved the story of the Civil War grave and the recent body found in it. I loved most of the stories in the book and given the
Lil' Grogan
Sep 14, 2011 Lil' Grogan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, humour, crime, 4
A fascinating read with far more humour and heart than I expected. My own interest in forensics is purely born from watching CSI. Found it intriguing to read about how and where some of the knowledge in the field was developed.

Majority of the book is about Bass' career as a physical anthropologist, with a concentration on his work in crime cases and small bits about his personal life. Bass is also generous in devoting time to the achievements of his students and colleagues in the field. Liked t
Apr 01, 2015 Tammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. You can easily draw the parallels between Dr. Bass' real cases & the ones he includes in his fiction books. The magnitude of this man's experience, contributions to the field of forensics, and intelligence is immeasurable! As I began one account, I recognized a name. The case took place in my home county. As the account progressed I recognized even more. I remember the case & knew the people. Knowing now that Dr. Bass' crew helped on the case is a blessing ...more
Jan 28, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
Death's Acre is a humble account of the development of forensic anthropology from the man who was curious enough to find the answers. Bass's personal history and relationships give insight into how the science has evolved and culminated in the Body Farm. Bass is generous in his praise for those he has worked with and mentored over his long career and comes across as an approachable and ever-curious figure. The only criticism would be that certain descriptions of techniques or processes are repea ...more
Sara Dee
Sep 15, 2015 Sara Dee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
finally finished. I had about 20 pages left and just kept putting it off...but! I got Beyond the Bodyfarm so I felt compelled to finish this one!

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot, especially from the appendices. I loved Dr Bass' punny humor. The cases were all interesting and mostly all of them we're new to me. I'm excited to see what new ones he brings in the next book.

The thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was that there was a lot of repetition. Almost like each case was written
Death's Acre is primarily a series of interesting stories about solving crimes through forensic science. Jon Jefferson has assisted Dr. Bass in writing a really engaging memoir. This book could have been just a series a CSI type stories, but it is more than that. I found Dr. Bass's discussion of his loss of religious faith particularly interesting. He practiced a conventional Christian faith for over 60 years. His direct experience with horrific murders did not shake it, but the cancer deaths of ...more
Jun 10, 2013 Kristine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was incredible! Bill Bass gives an easy to read background to forensic anthropology. This is definitely a must read if you like to watch crime drama television such as Bones or have an interest in anthropology. Surprisingly, this book wasn't dry, which I kind of hoped it would be! However, Bass included little pieces of his humor which had me laughing out loud while I was reading it. Death's Acre was the type of book that I didn't want to put down. Bass also includes a section with pic ...more
Theresa Connors
Dec 19, 2015 Theresa Connors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book chronicling the origin of the Body Farm and modern advances in forensics. Written in layman's terms with just the right amount of gallows humor.
Rachel Jackson
After reading Mary Roach's Stiff, I wanted to dive into more books about death, the morbid and the macabre immediately, which led me to Bill Bass's book Death's Acre about his brainchild and creation the body farm in Tennessee. I wanted to learn more about how it was created, how it operated and what sort of research it did. However, this book was less about the body farm as it was about Bass's life itself, from his origins as an anthropologist studying Native American remains to his love life. ...more
Parker Doerr
Death's Acre the story about anthropology told from the point of view of an anthropologist, Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. This book is set u as a number of differen stories. This book is not a very easy read it will take time to finish it and understand everything that is going on. You may need to reference to the back of the book where there is a picture of a skeleton that is labled as an anthropologist would descibe a skeleton. There is also a dictionary that tells you what certain words are.
Katy Jane
Jan 10, 2015 Katy Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughts on chapter 1: The Bones of the Eaglet
1. This guy is very funny.
2. I want to read more about Charles Lindbergh.
3. I am totally interested in what this guy has to say.
4. Let me tell my husband all of the things I'm learning.
5. I read a book called Working Stiff by Judy Melinek about her becoming a medical examiner. Her dad committed suicide. In Death's Acre, Bill's dad committed suicide. Is there maybe a link to their future careers? Wanting to find answers?
Thoughts on chapter 2: Dead In
Kit Dunsmore
Jan 19, 2010 Kit Dunsmore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research, mystery, science
Starting watching the TV series Bones, which made me want to get this book out again. I've already read it before, but it's interesting to read how science can and can't solve murders. And for reasons I can't understand, I'm absolutely fascinated by forensics, although I don't think I could stomach the realities of the job if I tried...

This book is excellent for those with little scientific background. Everything technical is explained clearly in non-scientific terms.
John Bruni
Oct 02, 2014 John Bruni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most fascinating nonfiction books I've ever read. It's going to be hard to not write an entire book about how much I enjoyed it, but I'll give it a shot. If you've ever wondered what really happens to the human body after life has departed, this book will answer it so well you'll almost be an expert in forensic anthropology when you're done. Hollywood always gets it wrong. It's shocking how quickly a corpse dissolves out in the open, at least in areas where it gets reasonably ...more
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Co Authors with
Jon Jefferson

William M. Bass, often credited as Bill Bass, is a U.S. forensic anthropologist, renowned for his research on human osteology and human decomposition. He has also assisted federal, local, and non-US authorities in the identification of human remains. He taught at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and though currently retir
More about William M. Bass...

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“I'm sure the makers of Downy would be pleased to know that their product makes even mummified human skin soft and fragrant. ” 16 likes
“We’re organisms; we’re conceived, we’re born, we live, we die, and we decay. But as we decay we feed the world of the living: plants and bugs and bacteria.” 9 likes
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